Review: Soundgarden releases first full-length album in 16 years

Anne Buie

Editor’s Note: The following reflects the opinions of the author.

Soundgarden has seen better days.

The Seattle-based grunge band helped forge a lane in popular music for a more aggressive sound, and a more aggressive lifestyle, with the grunge era of the mid 1990s.

With Soundgarden’s 16-year hiatus leaving fans and spectators alike foaming at the mouth for another studio album, 2012’s “King Animal” was easily one of the most anticipated albums of the year in any genre.

The album is not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but when compared to any other work Soundgarden has released in their lengthy career, and the sad attempt it makes at grunge revival, “King Animal” is by far the biggest letdown in their discography.

The troupe of 40-somethings still has the same polished rebellion they had on earlier tracks, and tracks such as “Non-State Actor” show why they were once more important than Nirvana.

The track also shows the often overlooked and unrecognized technical skill of drummer Matt Cameron.

Cameron has always been overshadowed by the almost impossibly beautiful primal scream of lead singer Chris Cornell, and it is really quite a shame, because Cameron should be listed with the likes of Neil Peart, John Bonham and other greats in terms of ability and influence.

The unrelenting hurricane that is “Blood On The Valley Floor” is a nice introduction to new listeners of Soundgarden, but they will have to do a great deal of backpedaling to understand what they have to offer in their back catalogue.

Songs like “Taree” and “Bones and Birds” are virtually of a new vein of style for Soundgarden, almost as if they are attempting to be a Soundgarden cover band that plays 1990s rock ballad versions of Soundgarden songs.

As with a great deal of Cornell’s lyrics, they tend to attempt a sense of depth that is seemingly lost in translation.

Just trying to find an explanation for the lyrics on “Been Away Too Long” – “I am still hiding/Everyone inside/Tank girls and fly guns and silver boots on my way home,” – would be an afternoon’s worth of research yielding no results.

On the same track, however, Cornell pens a fitting chorus, presumably about the band’s hiatus. “No, I never really wanted to stay/I’ve been away for too long,” Cornell sings, making it the perfect opener for a comeback album.

“King Animal” is still generally the same Soundgarden that fans have come to expect. The only bad thing about this album is its purpose, namely the fact that there doesn’t appear to be one, which leaves “King Animal” a soulless attempt at a comeback album.

Rating: Two out of four stars


Story: WILL GREENE, A&E Reporter